Hendrick von Zellen (later changed to Henry Sells), with his two brothers, Martin and Dieter, left Krefeld, Germany in 1686 and settled in Germantown, PA.  They were Mennonites and part of the flight from religious persecution to the New World.  He was an attorney, landowner and very active in the church.  He had three sons:  Peter, Jacob and John.  They later moved to York County where he died in 1749.  His son, John Sells, died in 1767 in Philadelphia, PA.  John’s son Anthony was born in 1721 and moved to Huntington Co., PA where he died in 1792. His first son Ludwick moved to Ohio where he and his sons founded Dublin, Ohio.  He was also the ancestor of the two Sells brothers who founded the Sells Brothers Circus in 1872.

            Solomon, third son of Anthony, was born in Littletown, PA, in 1750.  He is the ancestor of the Sells family in Dade Co.  He married Margaret Ashbaugh and they had 8 children.  Son Peter, born in 1787, married Hannah McDonald in 1807 had died in Sinking Cove, Franklin Co., TN.  Solomon Sells, who was born in 1815 in TN, was the fourth son of Peter and Hannah.  He married Lucy Ann Taylor, daughter of John Taylor and Lucy (Reed), and moved to Dade County.  They acquired the first property in 1845 from J.G.R. Taylor.  The Sells family have been property owners ever since.  Lucy died in 1873 and Solomon in 1891; both are buried the Sells Cemetery.  They had 9 children:  William, Martha, John, James, Margaret, Mary Jane, Peter Benjamin, and Stonewall.  Stonewall was nicknamed Babe because during the Civil War, the family would say, “We have to save the babe,” and the name stuck even though he was a big man as an adult.

            Babe Sells married Anna E. Ewing at Ten Mile, TN on Feb. 4, 1891.  Her father, Jacob E. Ewing, fought in the battle of Atlanta, was injured and unable to return home for a year.  Babe and Anna had 5 sons:  Elijah McPherson, Jacob Ewing, Ben Taylor, Malcolm Stonewall and Wallace Jack.  Anna Ewing Sells was known as a genteel lady who loved to ride sidesaddle and was known to “cut a fine figure on a horse.”  She died in 1922 and Babe in 1939.  They were members of the Presbyterian Church and are buried in the Sells Cemetery.  Babe married the second time to Cora Frye who is buried in Chattanooga, TN. 

            Elijah married Charlene Jones and had 4 children.  He is buried in the Sells Cemetery.  J. Ewing (my father) fought in WWI in France; married Mabel Anderson and moved to MN.  They had three children and are buried in Hills, MN.  He told many stories, including the picking of rocks and repairing the rock fences which are still in place today.  Ben Taylor was in the Navy in WWI, married Lelia Loveless and also lived in MN; they are buried in Freeborn.  They had 3 daughters.  Malcolm married Jeanette Bierwirth and had 2 sons.  They lived and died in Davenport, IA and are buried there.  W. Jack married Atha Lee Vestel in 1951.  They lived first in what was known as the Allen (Bud) Sells home, which was bought by Babe Sells around 1890 and then moved to the home place in the spring of 1958.  A letter from Babe to his brother, Peter Newton, states that the house was “finally” finished in 1903.  Jack and Atha Lee had two children.  Jill is married to Edward Campbell and lives in Cleveland, TN with their son, George.  W. Jack Sells, Jr. married Judith Shadix and they have 3 children:  Wallace Jack III, James and Jennifer.  They reside in the Sells family home at this time.  (2001)

            We are proud that the Dade County High School is built on land owned by the Sells family.  Education has always been very important throughout the family history.  The Sells family has a long history in the county and before that, a long history in this great country.  Today we can claim members from the north to south and east to west, but hose of who originate from Dade County are proud of our heritage and love to return to the lovely acres with unique rock fences where our forebears lived, worked and raised their families.  Nine of the eleven living first cousins returned for a family reunion in 2001 and enjoyed being on “the land.”  We are happy that a Sells family still resides in Dade County on the same land that was first acquired in 1845. 


Barbara Pollei

  1. Charles Jones

    Peters brother Henry moved to Overton County, TN and we have a large Sells Family here. Ludwick had 5 sons all 5 fought in the Civil War, 4 were with the union army and 1 was with the south and happen to be a guard at Andersonville when all 4 of his brothers were brought in and he helped them escape. 4 of them started the Sells Circus. The last brother sold the Circus to Bailey in 1908.

  2. Leslie M. Shirah Ellis

    I am the Great Grand-daughter of Mary Jane Reed Sells. My mother is Josephine M. Stringer Shirah. She has told me stories of her Granny. I have the walking stick that my grand-father made for her. I would love to have contact w/ my relatives that I haven’t met. I have many pictures of my Uncle Rollie and my grand-father Richard Madison Stringer. My mother is still alive, she will be 88 years old in April.


    Leslie M. Shirah Ellis

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